OK, that’s a trick question. This just in: There’s no chance that you can spend enough time networking to get a meaningful portion of your business from referrals. How much time does it take? Thanks to a Referral Institute study on business networking, we finally know how much networking time it takes to impact the amount of business you generate.
“The most dramatic statistic I have found shows that people who said ‘networking played a role’ in their success spent an average of 6.5 hours a week participating in networking activities. On the other hand, the majority of people who claimed that ‘networking did NOT play a role’ in their success spent only 2 hours or less per week developing their network.”
Time actually is money
There’s a direct correlation between the amount of time you devote to the networking process and the degree of referral success you realize from it. To illustrate, the graph at right shows the average percentage of business generated from someone’s networking efforts in comparison with the amount of time spent. You can see that people who spend 5-9 hours per week networking generate 50% of their total business from it.
Most lawyers reading this are thinking that 5-9 hours per week is beyond belief. However, this activity level is among full-time, professional salespeople; lawyers are neither. While the study doesn’t state this, I’m betting that the total includes all forms of one-to-one staying in touch, not just attendance at networking events.
Unfortunately, even the two hours or fewer that yields lesser results is beyond what most lawyers can or will do. For many lawyers, two hours per week is their total weekly business development time budget -- for all activities -- and most struggle to sustain that consistently.
Presumably, in addition to spending more time at networking, sales professionals have better skills than you do. So, for time-strapped lawyers, aspiring to generate referrals from networking seems a doubly bad bet if a) you’re going to invest only a fraction of the required time, and b) your networking skills are nowhere near as good as those of people who must spend lots more time at it despite doing it full time as a career.
Even when it seems to work, it doesn’t, really
My longstanding, vehement opposition to “relationship building” per se (that is, with prospects, not clients), and to depending on networking as the means to pursue it, is because it’s unsustainable, even at the low levels of networking activity typical of lawyers. Presuming surface success, i.e., you met someone who matches your prospect profile (you do have a prospect profile, right?) and seems to show some potential, that’s just the beginning of a relationship-building investment that you’ll likely have to sustain and develop for a long time before it bears fruit. (I modeled the time investment required even if you go to only two networking events per month.)
Change your definition, change your result
You may have missed the distinction I drew in paragraph four: one-on-one networking. That’s what most of us mean when we refer to networking. The process of meeting, getting to know, and progressing with one person at a time, while worthwhile during the Seller’s Market that concluded in 2008, is a bad strategy now because nothing that worked then will work in the Buyer’s Market that you’ll see for the rest of your career.
Redefine networking to mean communicating to and forming “idea relationships” with an entire market segment or industry at the same time through channels they trust. You already recognize the worth of speaking before a few hundred people at an industry conference. Why limit it to that? Wouldn’t it make sense to write articles and a blog that reaches many thousands of people in that industry? And then re-post those in industry-specific groups on LinkedIn?
It sure beats going to local networking events more nights than you’d like, hoping for the best, then beginning the long, arduous task (and low-percentage bet) of developing a personal relationship with someone whose qualifications as a prospective client are largely unknown?
Acquiring and mastering business development skill is a three-part mission: Education, Training, and Coaching. Each produces a different outcome, and should be accomplished using different tools at appropriate cost.
- Education produces understanding, awareness, context, but no skills. Like law school. The Dezurve content library lets you accomplish this easily, conveniently, and at trivial cost.
- Training is the actual doing. It produces practical skills available to you when you need them in the real world. RainmakerVT online simulations and video courses let you learn and make your mistakes privately in our virtual world, at modest cost.
- Coaching produces tangible success by guiding you to apply successfully the skills you learned.